Origins and Names: Etymology and the Elizabethan Society of Antiquaries

Angus Vine

in In Defiance of Time

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199566198
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722462 | DOI:
Origins and Names: Etymology and the Elizabethan Society of Antiquaries

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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This chapter considers the antiquarian interest in linguistic traces, examining how writers of an antiquarian bent turned to etymology and names to access the past and unearth historical origins, and sometimes also to establish narratives of genealogical descent. The belief was widespread that the name of a people or place was a form of record, memorializing ancestors or founders. As such, etymology was a highly effective means to know the past, and so the etymological approach united writers and scholars from various backgrounds and in different genres. The chapter focuses on the papers delivered at the Elizabethan Society of Antiquaries, William Camden's Britannia, and Edmund Spenser's A View of the Present State of Ireland. It also explains why etymology came to be such an important methodology for the antiquaries.

Keywords: etymology; linguistic; genealogical; origins; memorializing; Elizabethan Society of Antiquaries; William Camden; Edmund Spenser; methodology

Chapter.  14361 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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